When an incapacitated person cannot make personal or financial decisions, state courts may appoint a guardian to assist the individual with determining where to live, what kind of care to receive, or how to manage finances. In some cases, guardians may wish to move their ward — someone whom a court has found need a guardian’s protection — to another state for care.
However, guardianship, as a matter of state law, does not automatically transfer across state lines. In many cases, to transfer a guardianship, guardians must petition the state where the ward currently lives and the state to which the ward is moving.
This process can be complex, as each jurisdiction has rules regulating guardianship. Inconsistencies between states can create challenges. For instance, one state court may find that an incapacitated person needs a guardian, whereas another may disagree.
Even after relocating, guardians may remain subject to the reporting requirements of the state in which the guardianship was initiated. The original state can retain jurisdiction if the guardian forgets to close the guardianship. Failing to comply with reporting requirements may cause legal problems, and the state may seek to remove the guardian.
The Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act
The vast majority of states, as well as Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, have adopted the Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act (UAGPPJA), which has resulted in more efficient guardianship transfers.
Individuals can request that the state where they plan to resettle the ward records the existing guardianship order. Once the UAGPPJA state records the order, it honors it, allowing the guardian to continue making critical decisions for the ward after the move.
Nevertheless, even when states use the UAGPPJA, they implement it in various ways and have their own specific rules. Individuals seeking to transfer guardianships should consult an experienced attorney who can assist them with the process.
When Is a Transfer Permissible?
The UAGPPJA permits guardians to move wards across states when:
- Relocating is in the ward’s best interests, promoting the ward’s physical and mental well-being.
- The guardian has reasonable and acceptable plans for the ward’s care in the new home.
- No one opposes the transfer.
- The move is permanent; guardians cannot orchestrate temporary moves for convenience.
When guardians are first appointed, they must inform the close relatives of the incapacitated person, allowing them the option to contest the guardianship. This notice provision also applies to transfers: Guardians must inform close relatives when electing to take their wards to another state.
Many guardianship transfers are uncontested. Should a ward’s relatives challenge a relocation, courts often will hold evidentiary hearings to decide whether the resettlement is legal.
Although relocations can be complex, guardianships may transfer successfully when a move is uncontested and is in the ward’s best interests.
If you are looking to transfer a guardianship to a new state, be sure to connect with a qualified elder law attorney for help.